A Fan’s Perspective: I believe in Lionel Messi

The Argentine scored a clutch hat-trick to send his country to the World Cup

Argentina have qualified for the World Cup.

I have to be honest and admit that I had absolutely no hope that Argentina would qualify for the World Cup. Having been a painful spectator of their recent games, I was almost half expecting them to lose without even putting up a fight.

I didn’t have the heart to watch the game live. I mean, how could I? As a fan, there is only so much one can endure, before you lose belief. A World Cup final and two back-to-back Copa America finals are where I drew the line. I told myself, this is it… I am not going to emotionally invest in Argentina. As an Indian, I have no predisposition to align with a certain national team. Messi was the only reason I watched Argentina and my choice was rather easy. It was convenient to watch the greatest player of all time in his prime for his club, and completely ignore the shambolic nature of his international career.

A few weeks into the qualifiers, and I was happy about my choice. While thousands of Barça fans winced at Argentina’s plight, there I sat, basking in the glory of my wonderful decision. The world was losing its mind but I was happy.

Fast-forward to last night, and I was a little tense. The possibility that Messi wouldn’t even play in the World Cup was horrifying to me. I didn’t expect him to win, but he didn’t deserve to go out like this. I wanted to watch the match; I didn’t.

The first thing I did in the morning was to check the news, and I saw it, and for that brief instant when a slow smile crept onto my face, I believed in miracles.

1-3.

My heart raced.

It was like revisiting a lost lover.

I had to watch the match at that very moment, and I did.

With every touch of the ball from Messi, I saw a purpose. I saw the will to take what he was being wrongfully denied; to go against nature and seize what belonged to him. I saw a man on a mission.

With every goal, I smiled wider. It was sheer joy to watch Messi do his dance and climb over those that stood in his way.

By the time Messi scored his third, I regretted not watching the match in real time. When the referee blew his whistle on my screen, I felt a strange sense of commitment. It was like balance had been restored to the universe and finally, we could all breathe a sigh of relief.

I am a realist and very rarely believe in things. It is second nature for me to make my choices based on past events. History suggests that Messi will never win a major international trophy in his senior career. Technically, I should be discarding any notions of Messi winning anything significant with his country. However, today, I feel different.

Messi is not like the rest of them. Yes, he’s had his losses and some of them have come at a huge emotional expense for those who rooted for him. If it were anybody else, I’d have no hope. But when his back was against the wall and the chips were against him, Messi delivered.

It wasn’t just Argentina that won the match; it would have been a shame for the greatest player of all time to miss a World Cup.

This was a victory for football.

I believe in Lionel Messi.

Albert Soler resigns as Barcelona sporting director – report

A new sporting structure will be revealed by Bartomeu in the next General Assembly

Albert Soler, director of professional sports at Barcelona, has reportedly informed president Josep Maria Bartomeu of his decision to step down as the head of the football division.

Soler’s decision comes on the back of another resignation, Raul Sanllehi, who was the club’s chief negotiator, according to multiple reports.

Since his appointment in 2015, Soler was involved in the transfers of 12 players and the appointment of coach Ernesto Valverde. Despite stepping down from his football-related duties, Soler will continue to be involved in other sports like basketball, the upcoming handball team, and the Masia 360 project.

Sanllehi, on the other hand, seems to have left the club on rocky terms after the club pulled out of the Jean Seri deal in the last minute after several talks. Soler was said to be in Nice to further the talks when Barcelona called off the transfer, much to the humiliation of the chief negotiator.

Pep Segura, the general manager, and Robert Fernandez, the technical director, will continue in their roles and take charge of the winter transfer window.

There are several internal changes being made, both structural and personnel wise within the club, which Bartomeu is expected to reveal at the next general assembly.

Sporting Lisbon 0-1 Barcelona, 2017 Champions League: Player Ratings

Bang-average

Marc Andre ter Stegen (5/10)

A decent performance from MAtS who kept danger at bay whenever the moment arose. The German made three saves on the night and kept a clean sheet.


Nelson Semedo (6/10)

Semedo had a poor game by his standards. Sporting specifically targeted his flank in the latter half of the game and all the subs introduced seemed to fit this tactical approach.


Gerard Pique (7/10)

Fernandes was a handful for Pique but Geri did his job and kept the goal safe. Having made six clearances on the night, it would be harsh to judge the Catalan for his lack of offensive distribution.


Samuel Umtiti (7/10)

Solid from Umtiti defensively but the adventurous runs from last season are sparse.


Jordi Alba (7/10)

A good outing from Alba. The full-back was alert defensively but wasn’t up to keeping up with pressure from Martins, Fernandes and Doumbia who often worked around him in the defensive third.


Ivan Rakitic (6/10)

Pushed into a wide role, Rakitic was ineffective as an attacking outlet. However, he did well to link things up on his flank and kept the ball rolling.


Sergio Busquets (7/10)

Busquets completed a ridiculous number of passes and ran the show in midfield. Unfortunately for him, Barcelona were toothless in attack and little came from his distribution.


Sergi Roberto (6/10)

A central midfielder on the flank. That’s exactly what it looked like.


Andres Iniesta (6/10)

A lack of involvement from the captain. Nearly 90 minutes of play meant he looked fatigued by the end of the match. He looked good in the first half, however, and linked well with Alba, Busquets and Luisito.


Luis Suarez (6/10)

Three shots on target and none were effective.


Lionel Messi (7/10)

Good performance but the killer instinct in front of goal was missing. Weak shots and lack of effective penetration from the Argentine; had some neat moments from a deep position.


Paulinho (NA)

Played ten minutes at the end to close things down.


Andre Gomes (NA)

Too late to have an impact.


Aleix Vidal (NA)

Too late to have an impact.


The Team (7/10)

All possession with no attacking instinct. This was Sporting, we had a strong line-up and we struggled. I’m being generous because we won.


Ernesto Valverde (5/10)

The formation made a bit of sense before the game, but I was disappointed with the execution. Rakitic and Suarez barely linked (if at all) while the dynamic between Messi, Suarez, Roberto and Iniesta didn’t play out as expected. The game was begging for an attacking sub that never came. Not the Barça I enjoy.


Man of the Match

The opposition.

Apart from the own goal, this game was pitiful.

A Fan’s Perspective: Barcelona is a ticking time bomb

There’s an implosion waiting to happen and it could be any day now…

Barcelona boast a perfect record this season with eight wins in eight games since the campaign began.

Things are, therefore, looking pretty good—the VONC has become an after-thought, Real Madrid are mid-table and Lionel Messi is back to being a super-human.

Treble incoming, right? No.

Barcelona is like the rotten apple that looks whole from the outside. All the issues that plagued the club in the summer are still there such as the dearth of world-class transfers along with a non-existent sporting plan. The big signings we were promised never came, and multiple players who departed the club mention their grievances with the board.

To be honest, I have no problem if the club isn’t signing big players; names are as good as their output. Signing Nelson Semedo over Hector Bellerin was a twist of fate that put Barcelona on the right side of the line—if one were to ask me, it had very little to do with targets and profiles.

Results and an in-form Messi have done more harm than good, as they keep the sinking boat afloat but don’t get me wrong; I’m not wishing for Barcelona to lose.

The club was having a meltdown before Messi went berserk and took everyone’s mind off the crisis. It is still there—lurking and simmering.

Hard-fought wins like the one against Sporting are starting to come too often and it won’t be long before the situation blows out of proportion.

Results will only go so far in delaying the inevitable.

We’ve already stepped on the landmine—it’s just a matter of taking our foot off before it explodes.

A Fan’s Perspective: Paulinho is not Douglas

He’s had a good start, but it’s still too early to judge

Let’s get some things out of the way—I did not like Paulinho’s transfer. There are various reasons for my lack of enthusiasm but they’re not relevant to the discussion at hand.

Is Paulinho what we wanted this summer? Looking at all the midfield targets we had (Verratti, Coutinho, Seri, etc.), it is hard to come up with a uniform set of skills that can help one identify the profile we needed. The profile we had was ambiguous, volatile and lacked definition. As such, signing the Brazilian shouldn’t come as a surprise.

We all have our reasons for liking/disliking this transfer but the question is if Paulinho is a good player. Honestly, it is too soon to tell. He has his critics and admirers who will always have something new to add to their list of reasons—indulging either is unhealthy.

The midfielder has been a bit of a surprise since he donned the Blaugrana and his impact has earned him a new-found respect amongst Cules. Most of us wrote him off before he played a single minute for us and for that we will only have ourselves to blame. On the other hand, those riding high on the Brazilian’s exploits need to exercise caution; the season is long.

Barcelona has a history of making questionable buys from Brazil and Paulinho was just another name in that list.

Until now.

With back-to-back performances that had polarising moments, the Brazilian has further fuelled the flame on either side of the debate. It is unfortunate that through no fault of his own, Barcelona’s latest midfield acquisition is being subjected to the pitchforks of scrutiny.

Time will be the judge on whether Paulinho is good, but one thing has been settled—he is no Douglas.

Getafe 1-2 Barcelona, 2017 La Liga: Match Review

Another three points, just about

Barcelona maintained their 100% start to the season but it was a tough old afternoon at Getafe with the visitors eventually winning 2-1, thanks to goals from Denis Suarez and substitute Paulinho.

The early minutes saw some end-to-end stuff with Getafe getting the first shot on target. Barcelona were looking to control the tempo with some safe passing between the back-line but the hosts were quick to win the ball back and counter attack.

Barcelona named their strongest line-up, apart from Nelson Semedo, but started the game with little aggression. Ousmane Dembele got involved in a couple of attacks, but the opposition left-back Antunes did a decent job of containing the Frenchman on both occasions.

Meanwhile, Gerard Pique brought down Molina to inches outside the box to pick up an early yellow card, a poor moment from the centre-back, who was clearly outfoxed.

It nearly got worse too, after some brilliant work from Shibasaki, Pique and Marc Andre ter Stegen nearly handed the opposition their opening goal but the home side failed to find the back of the net.

Getafe v Barcelona - La Liga
Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Despite a few attacks Barcelona failed to stamp their authority on the game and things got worse when Dembele had to be replaced by Gerard Deulofeu due to a hamstring issue after just 27 minutes.

Getafe managed to build a strong attack at the half-hour mark but a foul on Samuel Umtiti ended the attack close to the penalty box.

However, the hosts did subsequently take the lead, Shibasaki scoring a screamer past Ter Stege,, his first touch volley grazing the inside of the net from outside the box. Perfect. 1-0, Getafe.

Moments later, Fajr took a shot on Barcelona’s goal but his attempt had too much power and drifted into the stands. Meanwhile, Barca nearly levelled just before the break, a brilliant Messi free kick aimed at the top corner saved by Guaita.

Second Half

Barcelona opted to make a change at the break, sending on Denis Suarez for Iniesta and the Galician was involved straight away, adding a new dynamic to the rather slow midfield.

Getafe v Barcelona - La Liga
Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

An excellent counter attack followed with Messi leaving his marker behind to run into space. However, the Argentine failed to control a pass near the penalty spot which saw the move break down.

However, after little to no productive play for, Sergi Roberto and Denis combined after some work by Deulofeu to pull Barca level.

Roberto cut the ball in for Denis who finished with ease to level the scores at the hour mark.

After some uninspiring play, Barcelona finally had a renewed sense of urgency after their equaliser, while Getafe looked to park the bus and try to hang on for a point.

However, enter Paulinho who replaced Ivan Rakitic in the 77th minute and five minutes later struck a powerful shot past Guaita to put Barcelona ahead.

His first Barca goal, with his first shot on target, according to Opta.

With the scales tipped in Barça’s favour, the Catalans began to ramp up the attack before switching to control-mode and seeing out the win for another three points.

It was a difficult game for the visitors, but they came through, and Ernesto Valverde’s changes were vital to the win.

Here’s hoping we can keep it up.

Onwards and upwards!

Getafe va FC Barcelona post match analysis with D Spot

Posted by Barca Blaugranes on Saturday, September 16, 2017

A Fan’s Perspective: Is it time for Barcelona to drop Luis Suarez?

Should Ernesto Valverde give someone else a chance?

Let’s face it, we are all thinking it—Luis Suarez needs some time on the bench.

Sounds almost blasphemous, doesn’t it? Who is good enough to replace the Uruguayan? Paco Alcacer? Gerard Deulofeu? Denis Suarez? Certainly not Arda Turan! Thing is, it doesn’t matter who replaces him.

Luisito has been instrumental to Barcelona for the past three years and has contributed a ridiculous number of goals during his time here.

However, with his dip in form refusing to end, a question mark now looms over his status as an automatic starter.

Lionel Messi is in extra-terrestrial form right now and Suarez has been the sacrificial lamb. Ernesto Valverde seems to have locked the Argentine into a central role which means we need pacy winger-forward hybrids capable of scoring and creating on the flanks. El Pistolero is great, but does he have the legs to inject pace on the wings?

While Alcacer and Deulofeu are not the finished products we expect them to be, they do perfectly fit the system, both have pace and can score. Deulofeu would do well to complement new arrival Ousmane Dembele with his speed and dribbling ability while using Paco would add some extra firepower.

Barcelona v Espanyol - La Liga
Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

There are no doubts that Luis Suarez is a special player. A year or two ago, he was arguably the second best player on the planet.

Maybe he is exhausted or maybe his meniscus surgery is finally starting to take its toll? Maybe he is just ageing? Maybe it is just a temporary dip in form?

The truth is that the reasons do not matter. Luis Suarez is a special player but he is just not doing his job at the moment.

It’s time to give the rest a chance to grab his spot.

Barcelona 5-0 Espanyol, 2017 La Liga: Community Player Ratings

And guess who was the star yet again?

Marc-André ter Stegen (7/10)

A nervous outing from the German which resulted in a handful of risky situations. Despite being solid for most of the match, his inability to command the box and judge the flight of incoming crosses put MAtS under unnecessary pressure.

Community Rating: 7


Nélson Semedo (8/10)

We’ve all been wanting to see Nélson Semedo start, and he did not disappoint. The Portuguese full-back stormed his flank offensively and snuffed out any danger that sprouted at the back. His dribbles constantly put Deulofeu in dangerous positions while his dominance allowed Rakitić to flourish.

Community Rating: 8


Gerard Piqué (9/10)

Gerard Piqué was solid for the entire night and was duly rewarded with a set-piece goal.

Community Rating: 8


Samuel Umtiti (8/10)

Big Sam was crucial at the back, winning headers and making interceptions on a regular basis. There were a few fumbles that could have led to dangerous situations but they didn’t and that’s all that counts.

Community Rating: 8


Jordi Alba (9/10)

I have to say that I’m pleasantly surprised with Alba’s performance. After criticising the squirrel for the longest time, it was a little shocking to see him command his area calmly, and battle for the ball near the opposition box. Alba’s hustle and telepathic understanding of Barça’s system helped him make two assists. This was the Alba promised years ago in 2012 and it’s high time he became more consistent.

Community Rating: 9


Sergio Busquets (8/10)

When Barcelona needed someone to pass the ball to, Busquets was there. A typical night for the Catalan where he orchestrated the game alongside Andrés Iniesta. Busquets kept it simple and helped connect the lines to perfection.

Community Rating: 8


Ivan Rakitić (9/10)

Ivan Rakitić is arguably the most underrated CM of all time. There are times when he is invisible—these moments are more memorable due of their recency. Many, however, need to remember that for the entirety of last season, Barcelona had no one to operate on the right flank. With two players on the flank, however, Rakitić turned on the after-burners and put on an amazing performance. Rakitić was everywhere—every attack flowed through him in midfield. His final ball and vision produced two assists that capped off an excellent outing.

Community Rating: 8


Andrés Iniesta (8/10)

Iniesta was as important as ever in providing control and creating chances out of thin air. The captain was not as active in the final third but was instrumental in starting numerous counter-attacks.

Community Rating: 7


Gerard Deulofeu (8/10)

Deulofeu has been doing his best to earn his place ever since he returned from Everton. The La Masia prodigy has his doubters but this night was a wake-up call. Deulofeu is good—it’s that simple. Yes, his dribbling is a little sloppy and he tends to slow the move a little, a la Neymar, but his intelligence & thought process is on par with some of the best in the world. Hard work and humility will take him far—he just needs to put his head down and focus.

Community Rating: 8


Luis Suárez (7/10)

After numerous misses and some bad touches, Luisito finally managed to bag a goal in the final moments of the game. Suárez was a big factor in the box as he provided a body for Lionel Messi to ping the ball off, but his finishing was almost criminally poor apart from the goal. Luis needs to pick himself up if Barça is going to compete for the Liga.

Community Rating: 7


Lionel Messi (10/10)

Hat-trick, dribbles and magic. Messi is on fire and one can see it in his runs and urgency—it’s like he’s a man with a point to prove. I love it.

Community Rating: 10


Ousmane Dembélé (5/10)

A decent first show for Ousmane Dembélé. The Frenchman replaced Gerard Deulofeu on the right and showed-off his close control & burst of pace on a couple of occasions. His beautiful cross which created Luis Suárez’s lone goal on the night was beautiful and a precursor of things to come.

Community Rating: 7


Paulinho (NA)

Too little to make a judgement. I could criticise him for not getting on the end of a wonderfully weighted pass from Luis Suárez but that would be nitpicking.

Community Rating: 7


André Gomes (NA)

Despite playing very few minutes, Gomes attempted a few dribbles to impress his new coach.

Community Rating: 7


Ernesto Valverde (9/10)

Intense pressing, a high-line and loads of goals—Ernie won big and in style. The coach made use of all his substitutes and my only gripe was that Iniesta nearly played 90 minutes.

Community Rating: 8


The Team (10/10)

An excellent performance from everyone which led to a massive derby win.

Community Rating: 9


Man of the Match: Lionel Messi

Who else?

Community: Messi

Three things Ernesto Valverde needs to do against Espanyol

It’s the derby after the international break

Barcelona return to La Liga after the international break this weekend.

Ernesto Valverde’s men have had mixed results on the international front but a win against local rivals Espanyol will jump-start their lackadaisical start.

Barcelona sneaked past Betis and Alaves with uninspiring victories that brought back memories from the “Messi-dependencia” era at the club.

To put the season back on track and finally focus on what’s important, here are three things that Ernie needs to do against Espanyol.

1. Create a working midfield

Ivan Rakitic is a doubt due to a thigh muscle strain which is expected to rule him out of the tie while both Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets played the full 90 minutes against Liechtenstein for Spain. Although the latter is still capable of playing back to back matches, Iniesta certainly isn’t. At 33 years of age, it is important for the manager to protect his veteran captain. It is a big match and Iniesta’s presence will be a huge boost in midfield considering the absence of Rakitic. However, it might be in Barcelona’s best interests to explore the possibility of resting him.

Deportivo Alaves v Barcelona - La Liga

With neither of the starting central midfielders available, Valverde will be forced to find suitable replacements which should benefit the Blaugrana in the future. It will also give the likes of Sergi Roberto, Denis Suarez, André Gomes and Paulinho a shot to carve out a niche for themselves.

2. Start Nelson Semedo

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again—the sooner Semedo fits in, the better for us. Semedo has easily been the best option at right-back and yet Valverde has continued to rely on Aleix Vidal and Sergi Roberto in the role. While it is possible that Ernie is trying to figure out who’s going to play backup, a derby is no time for experimentation—you choose the option that will give you the best result.

Barcelona v Real Betis - La Liga

Nelson Semedo brings in all the right qualities and his cut-ins complement the flank operators in Ernie’s system. Only time will tell if Valverde makes the right call. Personally? I think Semedo starts.

3. Win big

Sounds easy, right? No.

Barcelona just scraped past Betis and Alaves thanks to Lionel Messi and only a big win will curb the growing pessimism at the club. The VONC and lack of renewals from major stars are symptoms of an institutional crisis at Barcelona and only a huge scoreline will divert the attention back to football.

Deportivo Alaves v Barcelona - La Liga

The fans have been let down due to the shortage of imports during the transfer window and a big derby-win should elevate spirits. The impending debut of Ousmane Dembélé and a massive victory will certainly give Culés something worth talking about.


Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below!

Three things Ernesto Valverde needs to do against Alaves

Some pointers for the new manager?

Ernesto Valverde has had a bit of a topsy-turvy beginning to life at Camp Nou. After the 5-1 aggregate hammering by Real Madrid in the Supercopa, the morale at FC Barcelona plummeted to a new low. The atmosphere surrounding the club, and new signing Paulinho being heavily criticised have played a huge role in weighing the club down mentally.

The 2-0 win over Real Betis alleviated some concerns regarding the team-play, but there are still some things that need to be ironed out. Here are three things Ernie needs to do in Barcelona’s upcoming match against Alaves.

1. Start Nelson Semedo at right-back

FC Barcelona v Chapecoense - Joan Gamper Trophy
Semedo was one of the stand-out performers against Real Betis

Valverde has got a lot of things right since he first took the job, but starting Aleix Vidal over Nelson Semedo isn’t one of them. The Portuguese had a sensational game against Real Betis, linking well with Gerard Deulofeu in the attacking third. It was a pleasant surprise to see the Portuguese starting over Vidal and hopefully, the coach can keep the trend going. Semedo is really good, and the sooner he settles in, the better it will be for Barcelona as the season moves forward.

2. Play a little more counter-attacking football

FC Barcelona v Villarreal CF - La Liga
The MSN trio was very aggressive and efficient when playing counter-attacking football

Last season was a tactical disaster and a lot of the blame falls on Luis Enrique. The Asturian had his drawbacks but one thing that he will always be remembered for is revitalising Barça’s age-old possession play; Enrique introduced a fast-paced counter-attacking system that stretched the opponents vertically along the pitch. While we are all happy that Ernie is bringing back the intricate passing triangles, we should not forget that Luis Enrique added value to the system, allowing Barcelona to break buses at will. Counter-attacking is a useful tool to have and it should not be ignored as an alternative form of offensive play.

3. Start Sergi Roberto

Barcelona v Real Betis - La Liga
Sergi Roberto scored his first goal of the season against Real Betis.

Sergi Roberto is more than a utility-man. Roberto developed at an astounding rate under former manager Luis Enrique and despite many claiming otherwise, playing at right-back has only helped him technically. Roberto is more adventurous than he used to be and is not afraid to take his man on. His soaring confidence is a big plus for the team and adding fuel to the fire is what Ernie should be doing. It is not known when Andres Iniesta will return, but I would be more than excited to watch the captain play alongside Sergi Roberto—I have a feeling it will work rather well.


Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below!